National statistics regarding sexual assault, abuse, and harassment among hospitality workers are staggering.
According to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the food services and accommodation industry – restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and resorts, and other hospitality establishments – accounted for 14.2 percent of all sexual harassment claims filed with the agency between 2005 and 2015, despite the fact that workers in that industry make up only 7.2 percent of the U.S. labor force.
But that figure speaks only to filed claims. Other data reveals that 89 percent of hospitality workers reported at least one incident of sexual harassment on the job, most often by a customer, manager, or colleague.
In New Orleans and across Louisiana, tourism is a significant contributor to the economy. A thriving convention business, cruise ships, Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, and other local attractions lure U.S. and foreign visitors as well as hopeful job seekers Because of this, we have a large community of hospitality workers, and they hold a special place in the New Orleans economy and in representing New Orleans to the rest of the world.
Sexual Assault Is Sexual Harassment
Because of the spotlight shone on the exploits of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, and other aggressors in the #MeToo movement, the EEOC definition of sexual harassment has become widely known:
Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.
Sexual assault is a type of sexual harassment that involves the perpetrator physically touching the victim in a sexual way. The worst examples involve rape, abuse, and forcible harm.
Abusive Culture of New Orleans Restaurants
The local restaurant community has been called a “bro culture” due to the number of male owners, executive chefs, managers, and patrons. A 2017 report by NOLA.com/Times-Picayune restaurant critic Brett Anderson regarding allegations by 25 women who claimed the Besh Restaurant Group fostered this culture of sexual harassment, included accusations that celebrity chef John Besh’s own behavior facilitated the toxic environment.
The situation among New Orleans establishments prompted a group of cooks, bartenders, waiters, and others to form Medusa, a new organization focused on combatting sexual harassment and assault at restaurants and bars in the city.
What Makes Hospitality Workers Susceptible to Sexual Assault?
The increased risk of sexual assault in the hospitality industry is said to be attributable to its unusual hours and low-paying jobs, which often place workers in a position of having to depend on supervisors for shift assignments and customers for tips. Sometimes, language barriers put employees at an economic disadvantage, impeding their ability to speak up and speak out.
Additionally, the presence of alcohol in hotels, resorts, restaurants, and bars creates a dangerous environment that can engender sexual harassment, assault, and unwanted advances by superiors or patrons.
Holding the Sexual Perpetrator and the Employer Accountable
Findings from the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace demonstrate that women are the most targeted – nearly 85 percent of the claims filed. Estimates suggest that 75 percent of all on-the-job sexual harassment incidents go unreported.
Certainly, the aggressor should be held liable for any physical injury, mental harm, or economic losses that result from sexual assault. Even if the aggressor is not charged with a crime, victims may be entitled to compensation through civil lawsuits.
Additionally, the assault victim’s employer may also be liable if it can be proven that the employer had prior knowledge of customer’s or other employee’s pattern of abuse, encouraged an abusive or hostile work environment, or failed to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual harassment and assault from occurring. As the headlines continue to report, employers tend to focus on dodging legal liability, rather than changing their work cultures and protecting employees’ wellbeing.
Consult an Attorney Regarding Your Sexual Abuse Claim
If you have worked in the hospitality industry and experienced on-the-job sexual assault or physical abuse, silence shouldn’t be your only option. The attorneys at Lamothe Law Firm are sensitive to your circumstances, band will fight for your right to hold your aggressor accountable and pursue compensation for the harm you have suffered. Please contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.